Brazil: Lula for President? | america21

Things are looking up for Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the Labor Party candidate. In all polls, he is clearly ahead of the incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, who cannot yet be prematurely written off. October’s elections aren’t just about who will be Brazil’s next president, they’re about the future of democracy. The question of whether incumbent Bolsonaro will accept defeat overshadows the beginning of the election campaign.

On May 26, the election research institute Datafolha, which is considered to be very reliable, published a new poll on the presidential elections. According to this, Lula with 48 percent is well ahead of Bolsonaro, who only gets 27 percent of the votes. An election victory for Lula in the first ballot would thus be possible. The poll confirms an increasingly consolidating scenario: the presidential election boils down to a duel between Lula and Bolsonaro, with all other candidates remaining in the single digits. All attempts to find a so-called third way beyond the existing polarization are therefore likely to have failed.

In the left camp, the result of the poll was received with great relief. Because in previous polls, the gap between Lula and Bolsonaro had narrowed, and Bolsonaro was catching up. This trend has now apparently broken according to the latest results from Datafolha. It is difficult to say what caused this. It is certain that the economic development does not favor the incumbent. The economic crisis continues, inflation is constantly increasing. The official inflation rate is now 7 percent, but the consumer price index is up 12 percent. This affects the poorest in particular, and the deterioration in living conditions is noticeable.

The saddest indicator of this is the return of hunger in Brazil. A new study estimates that by 2020 around 55 percent of the Brazilian population will be food insecure, that is 116.7 million people. Of these 116.7 million, 19 million, i.e. nine percent of the total population, are affected by hunger and a further 11.5 million people without regular and secure access to food. This is a result of the Bolsonaro government’s cancellation of numerous social programs.

In any case, the poll numbers provide a tailwind for the strategy of Lula and the PT. Unlike the last election, Lula is now running with an electoral alliance that goes beyond the usual left-wing suspects. In fact, it was clear early on that the smaller left-wing parties would support Lula’s candidacy. The socialist PSOL will also support Lula in the first ballot and will not put up its own candidate. In the last presidential election in 2018, she ran with the popular Guilherme Boulos from the movement of the homeless MTST, who will now run for the federal parliament.

However, a surprising and potentially election-winning move was made by Lula and the PT when they nominated Geraldo Alckmin as their vice presidential nominee. Alckmin has been the most important politician of the PSDB, the historical adversary of the PT, in recent decades. Presidential elections in Brazil have long been a duel between the candidates of the PT and the PSDB; In 2006, Alckmin lost to Lula in the presidential elections. However, after the PSDB’s disastrous performance in the 2018 presidential election, the party split into rival factions. Alckmin switched to the PSB, a party that has socialism in its name, but in many states is a melting pot without a clear political profile. Alckmin is not suspicious of any left-wing sympathies, his nomination is exactly the signal to the middle-class camp that Lula and the majority of his party want: Our alliance covers a wide political spectrum, nobody – apart from the Bolsonaro family and the hardest core of his supporters – has to afraid of a Lula presidency, the message said.

However, among the left-wing currents of the PT and in the PSOL, Alckmin’s nomination was met with suspicion and open rejection. “We believe that Alckmin does not bring votes. He is a neoliberal, a supporter of the coup [gegen Dilma Rousseff, Anm. d. Red.] and he insulted the PT and Lula countless times,” criticized Valter Pomar, a prominent representative of the PT left. The left in Brazil looked enviously at Colombia and wished the PT the courage to choose a woman like Francia Marquéz. But it all came to nothing ‒ With a large majority, the board of the PT confirmed Alckmin’s candidacy in early May. Critics reluctantly accepted the decision and did not make support for Lula’s candidacy dependent on the PT’s decision in favor of Alckmin. “Lula com chuchu” (squid with cucumber) is therefore the motto of the hour: In the past, Alckmin was nicknamed chuchu, a vegetable that is considered to be particularly tasteless.

Even if Bolsonaro is clearly behind Lula in the current polls – he is and remains the only candidate who has a chance of beating Lula. That is why there are repeated warnings against underestimating Bolsonaro and being too sure of victory. The fact that Bolsonaro, despite his government’s disastrous record, has a stable base of around 30 percent of the voters shows that Bolsonarianism is now firmly rooted in Brazilian society and would probably survive the coming elections even if it were defeated . The social groups feeding Bolsonarianism are the extreme conservative evangelicals and all those who feel threatened by “gender ideology”, feminism, human rights and communism and betrayed by traditional politics. Approval for Bolsonaro is higher among men than among women and increases in line with income. On this basis, Bolsonaro will conduct his election campaign as a moral crusade against evil and will address issues such as the demonization of the decriminalization of abortion, LGBTIQ* rights, but also the PT’s connections to the governments of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, which have been labeled “communist”. set the focus. Lula and the PT, on the other hand, will avoid exactly these issues and address the economic situation, inflation and increasing impoverishment and show again and again that everything was better under Lula’s presidency.

The abortion issue shows how much can be expected of the PT in this campaign. At an event in April, Lula said abortion should be a public health issue. After strong reactions, he declared that he was personally opposed to abortion, and the topic has been avoided by the PT ever since. The statement by popular actress and Lula supporter Maria Ribeiro, best known for her film Tropa de Elite, is symptomatic: “Guys, we can’t talk about abortion now. We’ll talk about that next year, understand? We have to win this election .”

Lula’s electoral victory depends on his being able to split the conservative camp and win at least some of it for himself. The Conservatives are the key target group of the election campaign and Alckmin’s nomination is the right signal for them. The left will vote for Lula anyway, especially if the alternative is Bolsonaro – that’s the calculation of Lula and the PT.

The beginning of the election campaign is overshadowed by another question: Is the incumbent president prepared at all to accept an election result other than his victory? Since early May, Bolsonaro has stepped up attacks on democratic institutions, particularly the STF Supreme Court. He repeatedly sows doubts about the electronic election process and conjures up the specter of electoral fraud. The threat of a putsch is once again omnipresent in the Brazilian press. In this way, Bolsonaro is preparing the ground for delegitimizing the democratic process in the event of an election defeat. All of this, of course, is reminiscent of Donald Trump’s rhetoric.

However, there is one important difference: Bolsonaro has the support of (large parts of) the military and other armed groups made up of military police, security services and militias. No other social group has benefited as much from Bolsonaro’s government as the military. 6,000 members of the armed forces have obtained well-paid positions in the government, more than during the days of the military dictatorship. Military salaries have been raised and Bolsonaro is likely to campaign with a loyal military vice presidential candidate. He also boasts that his government made access to guns easier. In May of this year, Bolsonaro repeated one of his favorite sayings: “The armed people will never be enslaved. The gun in the hands of the upright citizens will not only defend the family, but also the fatherland.”

And he added: “My government is radically anti-abortion, anti-gender, anti-communism, and God is above all.” Spreading fear among people is one of Bolsonaro’s special skills. Brazil’s democracy is facing difficult times.

The post appears in the Latin America News 576

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